I’ve been giving some thought recently to different experiences I have had when following the approach of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.

This came to mind recently when I was watching the world gymnastics championships. As I watched I recalled a situation from my childhood.

My gymnastics club was taking part in a local area competition. I was very excited but also worried because I could not do the routines for the beam and the asymmetric bars.

I was scared waiting to go on the beam. I could do the individual components but not link them together without falling off. Everyone did the same routine at this competition. All the people who had just gone ahead of me completed it very well, including adding extra moves.

My turn came. I fell off at least 4 times.

Next came the asymmetric bars. Although I had been dreading the beam that was nothing compared to the asymmetric bars. I just wanted to get the beam out of the way but I actually wanted to do well on the bars!

One of the main components of the bar routine was a skill I had not yet mastered. It was a backward circle. If you did not complete this you could not move in a linked way to the next skill. I’d like to stress again that I had never, not even once, managed to do it!

This time as I watched the people ahead of me something changed. I saw how they were doing the moveI watched the person directly before me and the whole thing ‘clicked’. I moved through the start of my turn in a daze and started the routine – I did an absolutely perfect backward circle (and a decent rest of the routine too).

The only thing that was different between the beam and the bars was my thinking – it was completely different.

Before the beam all I had in mind was falling off: “I fall off every time I do that”; “She didn’t fall off”; “Neither did she, oh dear, I always fall off” and so on. With each thought the fear built up until there was only fear and the image of falling off. And I got what I thought about.

Before the bars routine all I had in mind was the movement I was about to do alongside the movements I needed to pass through before I got there. The fear was there but it wasn’t alone and it wasn’t in charge.

Skipping forward to today and how this relates to my recent experiences with feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

Before an event I experienced an unusually high level of fear and yet my activity went very well.

So I wondered about the high fear level prior to the event. I noticed that when I was actually doing the task my mind was primarily on the task yet before it a great deal of my attention had been on the fear. I realised that was because I was scared I might have a repeat of the ‘waiting to perform the beam experience’ from my childhood.

I was afraid I might “feel the fear” and only feel the fear and fail and then the fear sensations got worse and I did not have room for anything else. But the more I worried about this the more likely it was to happen. And I knew that too – so round I went.

What lot of hard work!

Before the next event I thought I’d like to find a different approach.

I decided to work on what I put my attention on and found other things besides the sensations of fear and thoughts of failure. I felt better for it. I was calmer and could think about more than the nervousness and failure. This experiment will continue…